Friday, April 27, 2012

The Mirror Has Three Faces

Conversation with my 12-year-old daughter the other night:

Her:  "Mom, if I look in the mirror and I think what I see is pretty, is that what other people see too?"
Me (beaming):  "Absolutely.  You are lovely inside and out and other people can see that." 
Her: "So, if I look in the mirror and what I see is ugly, is that what other people see too?"

Oh snap! This kid is good ....

I quickly flipped on the internal panic button and backtracked as fast as I could:

Me:  "Not at all.  When you think you look pretty, it's a reflection of how you feel on the inside.  Outwardly, you are always beautiful, but if you feel bad about yourself, you are going to project those feelings onto your mirror image."

Whew!  Close call.  I may not be so lucky next time ...

That stupid mirror.  There's a reason why it's portrayed as evil in Snow White, and why breaking one gives you seven years' bad luck.  Luckily, I've basically come to terms with the mirror in the bathroom and the one I see in other people's eyes. But it's the "you've got gunk in your eye" mirror that I wish was fully functioning.

As a sufferer of chronic allergies, I often worry about what's going on with my face when I'm in public.  This usually results in me doing the nose-picking dance.  The dance begins when you're in a conversation and the other person casually scratches their nose.  Instantly, you read this as the International Bat-In-The-Cave sign, and you then casually wipe your nose as well.  However, if it was NOT the IBITC, then the other person thinks they've just gotten the signal, and you end up doing a back and forth nasal ballet until finally one of you excuses yourself and runs to the nearest bathroom.

Then there's the moment when you get in the car after lunch with the girls, and smile in the rearview mirror to discover that there are black things in between your teeth.  The range of emotions you experience starts with alarm, then a review of the conversation to remember how much you smiled to see if they really saw anything, and then anger that those bitches didn't tell you that there was crap in your teeth.  But then you see them the next day and they accidentally spit on you while they're talking, and everyone pretends it didn't happen, and you decide you are even.

Or there's the time when you are sitting with the CEO of a client's company, enjoying lunch, when he leans over with the "there's a little bit of something right there" and points to the side of your face.  You thank him and wipe it away (hopefully), and he tells you it's all better, but it turns out later that it was some dry skin that stayed put and he lied because he realized it wasn't a piece of napkin after all.

That's the stuff that keeps us humble and slightly paranoid in most social situations.  That's the mirror I need someone to invent.  Because the IBITC really hasn't caught on here in the South, and we aren't going to stop eating fudge brownies because of the social damage it could cause.  Nothing is worth giving up chocolate.

Until next time, keep crowin' and carry an extra Kleenex!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Big Salads

I wore the same thing today that I wore yesterday. But I did switch out my black jeans for black pants, because I had to go into the office. I knew I wouldn't see anyone today that I had seen yesterday, so I was in the clear. I didn't even shower. I handled my cowlicks with my daughter's flat iron, which had been left on my nightstand.  We have this new ritual where before school every morning she sits on my bed and eats breakfast and I do her hair. It's really the only way this is going to happen because I have a problem getting out of bed in the mornings. 

It's beyond laziness - it's an issue.  It stresses me out to have to get up early; being tired makes me sad. I can't function properly. For instance, my husband couldn't take our son to his 7:00 a.m. bus the other day, so literally, my son got me out of bed in time to get in the car and drive him to the stop. I stayed in the car and didn't speak to the other parents because I didn't have on a bra or shoes and I needed to tinkle. At my age, you can't hold it in as well as you could during the beer-busts in your 20's. (My husband did give my son breakfast, so you can cancel the call to DFCS.)

It was a busy day, and I was trying to stave off a funk - whose arrival is clearly heralded by my lack of interest in getting out of bed before 10:00 a.m., bathing, or changing clothes - so I treated myself to a big salad. I absolutely, positively, even-more-than-hamburgers, LOVE a big salad. I like to mix up all the ingredients with the dressing and make a chunky soup out of it. I like to have a little bit of everything in each bite, and I save my favorites, like the hard-boiled egg, for last. And I like them best when I can make them myself. My newest addiction is the salad bar at Whole Foods. It's AMAZING!  They have chick peas and bac-un bits, and onions and slaws and marinated mushrooms and magical mixtures from their secret headquarters. I fill up a bio-degradable box and rush it home so that I can fill one corner with Thousand Island and dip, dip, dip. It makes me so happy.

The big salad is an indulgence, something that I truly enjoy. I have some other indulgences, like a good (or bad) bottle of red wine, news reporter bloopers on YouTube, and getting my hair cut at a proper salon by a punk rocker. Keeping the funk away isn't easy, especially the closer you get to menopause, and sometimes the happy pills aren't enough.  But a salad for lunch and then a Whole Foods mega-chicken pot pie for dinner --- lawdy.  It does more for me than a hot shower or clean underwear.

I hope that you have a funk-deterrent for your rainy days.  But if you don't, then please watch this video and pretend that it was made just for you:

Until next time, keep crowin' and get yourself some chick peas!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ma'am, I Am

Yesterday was absolutely a crazy, get-in-bed-early-and-hide day.  It began at the eye doctor, where I enjoyed a fun exchange with the tech doing my work-up.

Tech:  "Have you ever smoked?"
Me:  "Well, yes, a little in college, but nothing major."
Tech:  "What did you smoke?"
Me:  (worried that this was actually a hidden camera sting operation) "Cigarettes, only cigarettes. (beat) Actually it was heroin."
Tech:  (awkward pause) "Oh - ha ha!"

I think she got me after that.

She then dilated my eyes and told me to wait for the doctor.  As I was blurring, my iphone starting moaning with emergency messages from my boss about needing publications designed and printed in a 24-hour turnaround for a major board meeting. This type of timeline is basically impossible in the publishing world, but I squinted and texted and tried to make things happen while sitting in the examining chair.

Then the doctor came in. And after introductions, we had this conversation:

Doctor:  "Has anyone ever mistaken you for a man?"
Me on the inside:  'He did NOT just ask me that  ...'
Me on the outside:  (awkward pause) "Oh - ha ha!  You mean because my last name is a man's name?"
Doctor:  "Yes, I've often wondered how people handled that ... wah wah wah ...  Have we met before? You look familiar ... blah blah blah ..."

I was creeped out and wanted to leave immediately.  That feeling was underscored when he reclined me all the way back in my chair.  I had no idea why this is necessary for an eye exam, but I was sure it would end with jail time and an emotional interview on the evening news - "Victims of Handsy Optometrists at 11:00!"

But, I exaggerate.  The worst thing about it was that he had weird breath.

The rest of the day was spent meeting unrealistic expectations at work, giving my jammed computer printer the Heimlich, a lot of cussing, stumbling through freelance deadlines and then declaring myself done with life for the day.

As I lay in a stupor on the sofa watching "Storage Wars," I thought again about the doctor's confusion over my gender.  Obviously, I'm not a man, but a ma'am.  At least, I hope it's obvious.  I have been questioned about my appearance quite a bit in my lifetime. As far as I know, I am Caucasian, but grew up with dark olive skin and non-British-tea-party features.  Some of the comments/questions I have received over my almost 40 years have been:

  • "You ain't all white, are ya?" - a man on the beach while on a high school trip to Jamaica
  • "I am casting for a mulatto Snow White. You'd be perfect." - a man in the UNC Chapel Hill quad while on a summer study program
  • "You have a big nose!" - a friend's toddler
  • "Are you from Puerto Rico?" - a waitress at a Georgia restaurant
  • "I have some friends that went to your university - maybe you know them?  They graduated in 1955." - a saleswoman who did not receive a commission from me that day - BIG mistake - HUGE ...
  • "Can I speak to your mommy?" - most telephone solicitors

So, I have always wondered about my heritage, and believe that somewhere back in my parents' timeline is a melding of cultures and ethnicities that led up to me.  My sister looks like she stepped right off the Irish potato boat, so we definitely have a melting pot in the gene pool.  I don't know much about my distant family, but have subscribed to the free trial of several times in an effort to find out.  Of course, it hasn't led anywhere, because I secretly don't want to learn that there is nothing exotic about me.  It's a nice daydream to think about mysterious ancestors from around the globe.

I guess for now it's enough to know that I can't be labeled in one box, except the female one. And that I can literally do my job with my eyes closed ... or just really glazed over ...

Until next time, keep crowin'!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The PTA and the Fonz

I am the copy editor for my son's school newsletter, which is put out each month by the PTA.  I read the articles and make suggestions on grammar, punctuation, and format.  It is a well-done piece that covers everything from the monthly cafeteria menu to the dates for the next book fair.

Yesterday, however, the PTA newsletter jumped the shark.  In case you aren't familiar with that term, it comes from a scene in Happy Days. In this tense moment, Fonzie, wearing his leather jacket and Daisy Dukes - but safely wrapped in some type of inflatable Boppy - accepts the challenge to ski over a shark.  As Richie Cunnigham nervously steers the boat towards the ramp, the crowd watches in anticipation, and then you see Fonzie's little stunt-man fanny sail up in the air and easily clear the fake fin.

Here's the scene if you have a high pain tolerance:

Somewhere, Annette Funnicello is rolling over in her grave.  Unless she is still alive, in which case she just threw up in her mouth a little bit.  

Anyway, I'm reading along in the PTA newsletter, and I come to the article from the Healthy Habits Committee.  It's all about water safety this summer: "Read the pool rules" and "Wear your goggles" and "If you do come close to a shark and it is about to attack, punch it in the eyes and nose" and ....

Um, WHAT?!  I don't .... understand ....

There is an entire section on how to defend yourself against sharks.  Don't swim during their feeding times, don't wear shiny bathing suits, don't get in the ocean if you're bloody because they can smell you, and then, the finale, how to punch them in the face.

I don't know about you, but if Suzie Second Grader comes face to face with a Great White, all the bitch-slapping in the world ain't gonna save her. 

I continue to be puzzled as to why the PTA included this how-to in their article.  Is this on the national platform?  Is it in the bylaws? Was it simply a case of blind cut-and-paste plagiarism?  Whatever the reason, as a former PTA officer, I am going to trust their instincts on this one.  I am going to be sure that I share this data with my 12 and 9-year-olds, so that one day, when they are on CNN being interviewed after having subdued Orca, they can proudly say, "I jumped the shark thanks to the PTA."  And somewhere, the Fonz will be wiping away tears of joy.

Until next time, keep crowin' and watch your backs!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is That the Best You've Got?!

Spring Break - Part Two

The Truman Show saved Spring Break for us. Truly. We watched a VHS copy of it on our first night on the island. We were all slumped over in the floral wicker furniture, squinting at the 10" screen, when the climax of the movie came on.  Jim Carrey (Truman) had finally overcome his fear of the sea and was sailing off into the sunset, when The Creator (Ed Harris) hit him with a massive tsunami.  "Is that that best you've got?!!"  Truman screams, and then goes on to survive the storm, climb the stairs, and bow out of his alternate universe.

I used that as our mantra for the rest of the week.

I used it on Day Two when my daughter and I laid in bed together, alternately puking and hacking, watching "The Killing" marathon on AMC and designing our unfinished basement in Mead wide-rule notebooks purchased from the island market.  The next day I woke up with red cough drops stuck to my body at the 10 and 2 positions - apparently I'm an open-mouth sleeper.

I used it on Day Three while my daughter and husband were at the urgent care clinic for shrimp boat captains and my son and I were being hailed by concerned passers-by as I tried to "drive" and "zip the flaps" on our golf cart.  I also repeated it silently when, at dinner, my daughter leaned back in her chair in the restaurant, lost control, and sailed backwards into a man with a wig on.

I used it on Day Four when my daughter developed a raging fever and my dog relieved herself of a green-colored substance on the master bedroom balcony.  And again that night during a lightning storm when a house nearby burned down.

I used it on Day Five when we discovered bugs in my daughter's hair and my personal space was invaded by some tourists.  We have this vast, expansive stretch of beach to ourselves, but everyone seemed to think we were supposed to snuggle.

Here is what it felt like:

Here is what it actually was:
But there were people behind me that you can't see and I may have some personal space issues.

And I would also like to report a possible murder cover-up by this man, who for some reason brought an adult-sized garden shovel to the beach:

I used it on Day Six when we visited the exclusive beach club during a hurricane watch and my son developed hypothermia from the wind coming off the pool.  Afterwards, my husband started complaining of a sore throat and took a nap, which means the world is ending.  Then he got up and caught a sand shark in the ocean.

I used it when we got home and my husband and I both woke up Easter Sunday with our left eyes caked closed.  But it was Easter, so I called my parents to wish them a happy holiday and regale them with my woes.  My dad said, "You must have felt like you had a can tied to your tail!"  Dad, you hit the nail on the head. 

Speaking of nails, the moment I got off the phone with my parents, my son stubbed his toe and lost the nail.  And THAT was the last thing that happened on our Spring Break.

Some other events occurred during the week, but I don't want to beat a dead horse, and you might start to think I was pulling your leg.  But despite it all, I was proud of the way that we banded together and weathered these storms with some Griswold humor.  It was a beautiful place and as the sun came up every day, we found reasons to crow --- and for that we are truly thankful.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

And Then My Son Lost His Toenail

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  My son lost his toenail on the last day of Spring Break.  Let me take you back to:

The First Day of Spring Break - Getting There
Our Spring Break trip was to an island only accessible by boat. A quiet haven in the breeze - no cars, no noise, just the sound of Nicholas Sparks typing away in his hammock. We left home at 8:40 a.m. to make the 7 hour drive to catch the 4:00 p.m. ferry. Doing the math, that would put us at the ferry at 3:40 p.m. - with no stops. 2 adults + 2 kids + 2 dogs; add those numbers to the formula and you do not get to the boat on time.

It started out well enough, but 1 pit stop took too long and we found ourselves a wee bit short on time. I called the ferry people and "Joan" (names NOT changed because I was pissed off) told me we might make the 5:00 p.m. boat, but we wouldn't have a shuttle to our house. This was an issue as we would be miles from our rental with our luggage and storage bins of supplies. Upon this discovery, my husband stepped up to the plate. "Leave me" he said, like the sacrificial lamb.  "If you and the kids make it to the boat, and the time should come, then leave me behind."

My heart will go on .....

Faced with homelessness, my husband hit the gas and roared past his standard 60 mph.  Each minute we shaved off the trip was met with a little celebration. Slowly, we regained hope ...

You know how when you're driving down a country road, and all of a sudden a man with a hat on in a Cadillac or Farmer Joe on his tractor pulls out right in front of you and slows to 20 mph?  Well, this wasn't one of those times. THIS time, it was a motorized wheelchair with an occupant that appeared to be halfway into the light.

A wheelchair on the road - what are the odds?!  But we maneuvered past him and sped up again.  The worst was behind us and all was not lost.  We had just enough time until we turned left on a small street, knowing this was the road before the road to the ferry.  And there, rolling towards us, like a gladiator in battle, was ANOTHER man in a wheelchair!@#$%&*#!

I have been with my husband for 17 years, and that has allowed us to develop a level of communication that doesn't require words.  In that moment, our brains sent the same message to the other, "It's over." Seconds later, his voice broke through the fog, "Just take the kids and the dogs. Get a boat if you can. I'll find you ..."

I won't let go .....

I called Joan again, who was still unwilling to play ball, "You can get on the boat, but you ain't got no ride" she reminded me.  But with 12 minutes to spare, we came blazing into the marina.  I jumped out, screamed at a man in a yellow jacket, "We need to make the 4:00!!!"  The rest was in slow motion - bags tagged, dog leashes intertwined, kids picking noses, and then, the moment of truth, when I met Joan face-to-face to pay for our tickets.  We didn't speak of her cruelty, but I saw a spark of shame in her eyes.

A few minutes later, we were all on the boat, high-fiving and reliving the miracle.  We breathed in the sea air and got ready for smooth sailing.

12 hours later, my daughter was puking in the bathroom and I was coughing up a lung.  And one dog refused to pee.

But we kept crowin' ....... more on our trip to come!